Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Couple Number One

As promised, a post about Blondechick and her young man! 

But what do I call him??

Sometimes I think I'll dispense with the pseudonyms altogether, as I realize how simple it would be to figure out our "true identities." However, using our actual names seems too personal to put out there for all the world to see.

I will call him Jedi Knight.

It's tricky to share their story, as it's not really mine to tell--so I'll tell my own. Our daughter was in a prodigal phase of her young life. She had come back to the Lord for awhile, but had begun to drift away again...until she met Jedi Knight. About a year before that, I had started praying for a specific type of husband for her, for a man who was not just attracted to her outer beauty--there were plenty of those--but one who was called by God to love and care for her inner soul. I knew he'd have to have much grace and forgiveness; in fact, I prayed specifically for a Hosea for her. If you know the Old Testament story, you remember that Hosea was told by God to marry a promiscuous woman. It was a tall order for a godly young man to fill.

God spoke to Jedi Knight about Blondechick through a dream before they even met--at a New Year's Eve party 1.5 years ago--and He confirmed it with another dream about asking a man if he could marry his daughter. When Jedi Knight saw a picture of Papa Rooster, he recognized him as the man in his dream! Also, Blondechick remembered reading Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love, based on the Hosea/Gomer story, and told me she and Jedi Knight had discussed the similarities in their story. I waited a few months before I told her of my specific prayers for a Hosea--I didn't want to unduly influence their early relationship--but as their intentions deepened, it was a joy to share with her the way that God had answered that prayer!

Jedi Knight is a young man of strength and conviction, solid in his faith and submission to God, with a deep love for Blondechick that has not wavered even in trial and testing. He's a manager at a Walgreen's; he's also an excellent drummer and a die-hard Star Wars fan. His parents live in Kenosha and are warm, delightful people to be related to. They are committed Christians, and they will be flexible in-laws to coordinate holidays with, we've already discovered!

Several months ago Blondechick left her stable but undemanding job as a receptionist at a law office to take a more challenging job as a pharmacy tech. The 10-hour shifts and unpredictable schedule, coupled with the stress of wedding planning and related financial stresses, plus a move (into the apartment she and Jedi Knight will share soon), triggered serious anxiety, insomnia, and difficulty eating. Jedi Knight has been a steady rock through it all! She recently switched to a waitressing job with a more manageable schedule, and she's doing much better. It's hard to watch your kids struggle, but so good when they learn and grow from adversity, just as we did.

In less than two weeks, they'll be Mr. and Mrs. Jedi Knight, and we'll have 5 sons. It's funny--I thought our family would shrink as our kids grew up and moved out. Instead, with fiances and fiancees and their parents, all local, our family is growing exponentially! 

God is so good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Midsummer Update

So it seems my blog posts are getting further and further apart...which saddens me but reflects the season of life we're in! It's been two years since we moved into our God-selected house, and those two years have been so full that we still haven't completely unpacked, hung pictures, or stripped the wallpaper I was sure we'd get rid of right away. So much has happened with our kids, our church, and for me and Papa Rooster. So busy, but so good!!

The biggest news is with our kids. In my last post, I hinted that B21 may have met THE girl. I can't believe I had the confidence to post that, but we loved her the first time we met her, and it was clear that B21 was smitten too. It wasn't long before we were talking about them getting married...and skipping to the end of the story, we now have Blondechick's wedding on August 7, and B21's will be on October 23!

I promise that I will write a post about these two new additions to our family--and post pictures!--but for now, praise God with me that these two adult children, who have both gone through scary prodigal phases, are marrying solid Christ-followers. When I think of the futures I have imagined and feared for these two (and for us), I have to keep pinching myself and praising God for his work in their lives! So completely God's hand. And such incredible human beings to add to our family! I am overwhelmed with God's goodness.

In other news...Tom Sawyer, the show I directed in Milwaukee in the spring, was a great success. We had two extremely talented brothers as Tom and Huck, and a super-strong supporting cast. It was a blast directing two times in Milwaukee last year and getting to know all the wonderful families there. For next year, though, I've requested to stay in Kenosha because it is B17's senior year, and it was so hard having him doing Godspell in Kenosha while Chicklet13, B11 and I were in Milwaukee doing Tom Sawyer, especially since our public performances were at the exact same times. Fortunately our school day shows were at different times, so we got to see him play Judas one time--and it was the most powerful portrayal of Judas I've ever seen. He also sounded amazing starting out the show as John the Baptist, singing "Prepare Ye." I was sad to only see it once, and the siblings really missed being in a show together.

In Tom Sawyer, Chicklet played Amy Lawrence, Tom's previous girlfriend. As Tom tells Becky, "she's so darn perky, it could make you throw up"--and Chicklet had a lot of fun playing up the "perky" part, skipping and bouncing across stage, flashing her smile about and tossing her long curls in the boys' faces. B11 was one of the Tom's Gang Wannabes, who tagged along after the big boys and reprised one of their dances. As is true of B11 no matter where he is, he had great energy onstage!

Chicklet's first year in public middle school was an accomplishment--straight A's, a citizenship award, and two-time Student of the Month. (It's refreshing to have a child who actually cares about grades!) She's chosen to return to the same school for 8th grade next year.

We attended our first-ever fifth-grade graduation ceremony, filled with thankfulness for the great experience B11 has had in elementary school, with the same wonderful teacher both years. He's done so well, also with good grades, a Kiwanic Terrific Kid award and a citizenship award. For 6th grade, rather than going to the local school that Chicklet attends, he'll be going to a charter school with smaller class sizes, more of an elementary school feel (it's K-8) and a charter for learning that is hands-on, cooperative and quite challenging. 

Do I miss homeschooling? I'm often asked. I was too busy directing two shows last year to miss it at all; this year I won't be lead-directing any shows, so maybe I'll feel it more, but I also feel like these two youngest kids are where they are supposed to be for now. They are both thriving, and for Chicklet, being in public school has strengthened her faith and quickened a strong compassion for others. I don't think our older kids would have done well going to public school for middle school (B17 went for part of 7th grade and hated it), but for her, it's been the right thing. But as always, we take it year by year, child by child!

In June, Chicklet attended Project Dance camp with her Kenosha team, the culmination of two semesters of classes. It was an intense week of dancing for hours on end. She learned so much, made lots of new friends and loved her first overnight camp experience, staying in a dorm and eating in the dining hall. After she returned, she told me she can't wait to go to college. "Don't feel bad," she said, glowing, "but I can't wait to be independent. And I ate healthy every meal, Mom!" I'm proud and pleased, but sad to see her growing up so fast!

B17 had the honor of going to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska, for a week; his high school's production of Dogfight was one of only 11 high schools selected to perform there. It was quite an experience for him! A few weekends later, his improv team competed in the Improvapalooza, an all-day improv competition. They didn't repeat last year's first-place victory, but it was still a fun day of great improv, and B17 enjoyed renewing friendships from previous years and from previous summer camps. 

B17 started visiting colleges last year, took the ACT twice, and will begin applying for college and scholarships this summer. Hard to believe his senior year is already looming! He's working, taking voice lessons, and continues to write songs--he sings and accompanies himself on the piano.

In addition to working as a shift supervisor at Starbucks, B21 continues his singer/songwriter career, with a regular gig playing on Sunday nights at a popular local restaurant. He recently won an online contest, garnering the most "likes" on a video of himself playing guitar and singing one of his own compositions, which will now be professionally recorded by the studio sponsoring the competition.

B25 works 10-15 hours a week stocking shelves; he also helps with chores, runs errands and plays chauffeur for his younger siblings, which is such a blessing! He also updates the church website by uploading new sermons each week.

Blondechick23 has moved into an apartment, where her fiance will join her once they are married, and she's enjoying unpacking her shower gifts, decorating, and wedding planning. She's recently gone back to waitressing, at a local establishment not far from their apartment.

B21 also just moved into an apartment very close to his workplace, where he's batching it until his wedding; he and his wife will start taking college classes in January, while they continue to work.

Since he moved out, B11 moved in to his old bedroom with B17 so that Chicklet13 could finally have her own room. With two kids out of the house, you'd think our schedule would be simpler, but with two engagements, we've added two more people to the family, plus their parents, who we are delighted to be getting to know--so the net effect is surprisingly more people, not less!

Father Rooster continues to work one day a week for his company, but the rest of his week for the church. Light of Christ continues to be a remarkable place of "love, hope and healing," as our mission statement puts it. Most recently, we started an Alpha group, which is for folks who want to learn more about Christianity, and it's been well-attended. We've also added a service on Sunday nights, once a month through the summer, called Oasis, for spiritual renewal and refreshment. Through the summer, I'm meeting four times with the middle schoolers (B11 and C13 included) for Bible study and a summer activity (the beach, the pool). We did the same thing last summer and it was a hit.

Finally, I enjoyed summer Shakespeare so much last year that I talked Chicklet13 into joining me this summer, and Papa Rooster said he'd do it too, if his dad would. (It has been great having my father-in-law living just blocks away from us! He moved to Kenosha last summer.) So all 4 of us are doing community theater together currently. We are performing abridged versions of Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It. Papa Rooster has the biggest part, playing Lord Capulet in R&J; his dad has the next biggest part, playing Adam, the faithful old servant, in AYLI. They are both amazing actors! I'm in both, with two small parts--Lady Montague in R&J, and Corin, the shepherd, in AYLI. Chicklet is playing Petra (Peter), plus another another Servant in R&J. She was also asked to understudy the lead character of Rosalind in AYLI, an honor that she hopes she won't actually have to perform.

That's more than enough for now! But now we're mostly caught I can write about these engagements next time!

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


I'm going to try for a quick post, late at night. Bed is calling!

But my heart is full of thankfulness for all the good things happening in our church and in our family.

Father Rooster and I had a wonderful time last week at the annual Clergy/Spouse Retreat with so many friends and leaders from the Upper Midwest Diocese. We've been doing ministry with some of them for decades! So good to be part of such a group of dynamic and humble leaders.

It was especially good to catch up with two other priests' wives, old friends, who like me, are also in charge of creating and directing the salvation history readings at their churches' Easter Vigils! All these years and I didn't realize they also carried this particular creative and administrative burden. We commiserated on the challenges, swapped stories of awkward failures, and gave each other some tried-and-true ideas. It was wonderful.

I'm so thankful to have some teens--new families at Light of Christ--who have never been to a Vigil, but they're willing to act, dance and even create a soundtrack and choreography! Thanks to them, we are going to have some really cool readings this year, including a human video Creation reading, and when our Dry Bones come to life, they'll be dancing in hip-hop and African styles. I still have to nail down what we're doing for a couple of the other readings, but I'm pumped about those two!

I am also prepping for audition weekend, coming up on Friday, for another musical I'm directing for Spotlight Youth Theater. It's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the Broadway show, and I'm super-excited. Although it's a bit much, right now, to be thinking about Easter Vigil with one half of my brain and Tom with the other--not leaving much room for normal life! But I was so happy to be asked to direct again!

My kids are busy preparing for audition weekend also--only they are auditioning for different shows! B17 is going to be in Godspell, the show that Spotlight Kenosha is doing. Chicklet13 and B11 are going north with me to audition for Tom Sawyer in our sister county of Spotlight Milwaukee, where I directed Tall Tales in the fall. I love hearing them all practicing and singing for each other. They make me so proud!

Wedding preparations are simmering along, too. We have ceremony and reception venues reserved, we have the dress, and I believe we have cupcakes. Blondechick is working on a Save the Date announcement--it's quite humorous!--and one of her bridesmaids is already organizing a bridal shower. One of our next priorities is to get her shoes, so we can have the dress length altered. And the list will go on and on till August 7!

(Oh. My. Goodness. I just realized I never posted anything here about Blondechick's young man, let alone her engagement...which was over the holidays. Hmm. Must write a post! He's an answer to prayer!)

And in other news, B20 has met a girl, maybe THE girl, and we would be happy if it were. He's in an especially good mood these days, and it's contagious. The beautiful weather we've had for a couple of days now doesn't hurt either.

Tomorrow will be filled with appointments...and rain. But today--I am thankful!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Lessons Learned in Ten Years of Blogging

I just opened up my blog page and read the quotes at the top of my sidebar, about spiritual growth occurring at the pace of a hen when you are a married person (and a mother)...and the second one about learning at the pace of walking, at the speed of life.

What have I learned in the ten years I've been keeping this blog? It was my tenth blog-i-versary on New Year's Eve!

I should probably go back and re-publish some of my original posts on why I chose the title and those quotes. But ten years ago, I was a homeschooling mom of six, age 15 and under. The days were very full of the mundane--changing diapers, nursing, explaining math problems, reading aloud, doing laundry, and every time I turned around someone was hungry...again! There was very little time for anything that seemed of eternal significance--unless I embraced it ALL as having eternal value. This blog helped me do that, recording the memories with a thankful, joyful heart, and tracing God's hand as He provided and directed along the way. 

As more of our kids entered their teenage years and when we moved away from an established network of Christian families and friends, there were years where a lot happened that was too painful to share...but oh, how God was working through those dark days.

We've come through the tunnel and out into the light again, it seems. Not that there aren't shadows that loom from time to time, but here's what I've learned, following God at a hen's pace, in the last ten years:

Each day is a gift. Even if it's another day filled with worry and pain, it's another day to bring it all to the Lord, and to take small steps in the right direction in the tasks He's given me, and in the lives of those I influence.

As I've petitioned the Lord for situations that were completely out of my control, He's given me things I CAN do. He's reminded me to appreciate His goodness. He's told me not to strive, to worry, to be anxious--and to trust Him. He's given me responsibilities that give me joy and distract from the pain. He's taught me that joy is not about circumstances, it's a choice--and it's usually found in the small things.

The Scriptures say that he who is faithful with little will be entrusted with great things. By God's grace, I've been able to make small daily choices--one step at a time--that have brought me on a journey to to better places than I could have imagined ten years ago! I won't say it was all forward progress--like the hen, I'd backtrack and circle around, with the same besetting issues repeatedly tripping me up--but the cumulative direction, though at a hen's pace, was God-ward.

As a writer, I've learned that writing takes time. Choosing words is not something I do quickly, and I honestly can't say that I feel called to write--at least right now--in the same way that I feel called to do other things. I've always thought that I'd write a book someday, and maybe I still will...but it's not something I'm supposed to do now. But I would like to figure out a way to spend just a few minutes a day blogging. It would be great if I could get a few thoughts and memories recorded "at the pace of a hen," rather than in great waterfalls of words, few and far between.

Maybe that lesson will be learned in my next decade of blogging!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Books Read in 2015

I'm a bit late for my usual end-of-year post reviewing the books I read in the past year! I won't review them all, especially because so many were by the same authors. As usual, about half were audiobooks, and I read precious few non-fiction books again, I see. My excuse this year is that I read so many nonfiction articles online!

This year I did not keep track of the movies I watched, so no post on that. Sorry, folks.


The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Thirteen for Dinner
The Big Four
Death in the Clouds
Endless Night
Dumb Witness
The Secret Adversary
After the Funeral
Dead Man's Mirror
(Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser)

Agatha Christie's novels are my go-to audiobooks. My library has 3 shelves of them, and I still haven't listened to them all! I love the British reader who reads most of them. Her plots are ingenious and satisfying; her characters are intriguing and so well-personified. You'd think she'd start to repeat characters, but Dame Christie really was an amazing writer.

Love Among the Chickens (P.G. Wodehouse) 

Nothing beats Jeeves and Wooster, but this novelette was really enjoyable and hilarious.

The Miracle at Speedy Motors
The Double Comfort Safari Club (Alexander McCall Smith)

More from the gently humorous series The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana.

Pontoon:  A Novel of Lake Woebegon (Garrison Keillor)
This novel surprised me with a sharper, darker and cruder edge than Keillor's usual folksy, feel-good stories of life in a fictional Minnesota small town. This one is NOT family fare.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale)

That's right, all but the last one! It will fall into 2016. 

I have to say that I have enjoyed these on audiobook WAY more than reading them to myself--and I loved reading them as they came out! Maybe it's because I'm finally getting the whole story at once, instead of reading them with months and years in between, but I think it's also because Jim Dale is an incredible reader. He has a different voice for each of the hundreds of characters he eloquently portrays in these award-winning performances.


The Friendly Shakespeare:  A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard (Norrie Epstein)

I've been teaching Shakespeare to teens, I assistant-directed a summer Shakespeare production and I ended up performing in it as well; I had to brush up on my knowledge! This resource was a great refresher on everything I learned in my college Shakespeare class. It was also most amusing and entertaining. I highly recommend! My only complaint is she needs to update her review of Shakespearean films; so many good ones were made after she published this book in 1994.

The Trip to Jerusalem
The Silent Woman
The Merry Devils
The Mad Courtesan
The Roaring Boy
The Laughing Hangman
The Wanton Angel
The Bawdy Basket
The Vagabond Clown
The Counterfeit Crank
The Malevolent Comedy (Edward Marston)

These mysteries are set in the days of Elizabethan theater, in the midst of a troupe very much like the one William Shakespeare wrote for. The detective, Nicholas Bracewell, is the bookholder--something like a stage manager/director, who was the only person to have a complete copy of "the book" or script. We also meet the leading man, the clown, the talented young boy who plays the leading lady's parts, and many other characters secondarily related to the troupe. These mysteries were fun to read and sketch a historically accurate picture. Pre-read before giving to your Shakespeare student though--although there is nothing really gratuitous, these Elizabethans are a lusty group.

The Shakespeare Stealer (Gary Blackwood)

This novel is safe for any age student, and it also gives a good picture of life in an Elizabethan acting troupe. 

A Challenge for the Actor (Uta Hagen)
The Power of the Actor (Ivana Chubbuck)

An acquaintance who is an acting coach recommended these two books on her website, so I read them, since I teach acting to kids. These were definitely geared to adult thinking and did not seem easily applicable to what I do, but I was glad to learn from them.

This Thing of Ours: How Faith Saved My Mafia Marriage (Cammy Franzese)

I was picking out books at the library that might be helpful for B16 with a report he was writing on the Chicago mob, when this title caught my eye. It was fascinating! What an encouragement to see what a huge difference this wife's faith made in a marriage tested by imprisonment and other extreme circumstances. Her mother's faith was a testimony as well.

Prayer (O. Hallesby)

What a find among Father Rooster's many worthwhile books! The cover claimed it was a classic, though I'd never heard of it, but now I believe it. This gentle Norwegian pastor explains so simply how to pray--continually, and without striving. Here's a quote:

To pray is to open the door unto Jesus and admit Him into your distress. Your helplessness is the very thing which opens wide the door unto Him and gives Him access to all your needs.

Here are more. Who knew?

Tuck (Stephen Lawhead)

These are re-imaginings of the Robin Hood legends, set in Wales. We've owned these forever, but I think Father Rooster and I OD'd on Stephen Lawhead back in the day, with his wonderful 6-volume Pendragon series and then some less memorable books after that. His books are set in the post-pagan times of the druids as they were converted to Christianity, so Lawhead's historic world includes beautiful Celtic Christian prayers, songs, mysticism and the occasional miracle. 

Now, if you'd like to read more book lists and reviews, check out the blog Semicolon and her round-up of year-end book posts!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

And That Was My Fall

It's been awhile, hasn't it? I've been pondering whether to keep my little blog going!

One would think that with no kids being homeschooled this fall, I would have had unprecedented amounts of time on my hand, but one would be wrong. Instead, I was unprecedentedly busy, riding a steep learning curve, doing something I had never done before--directing 59 kids in a musical! I had all kinds of new responsibilities to figure out, and in addition, before I was asked to direct, I had already agreed to teach two classes as well (Shakespeare and Dramatic Voice & Diction). Everything--classes, rehearsals, performances--was in Milwaukee, too, an hour away from home. So I was really putting in the hours, 3 days a week commuting and putting in time with the kids, plus prep time at home!

And loving every minute, I might add. 

I might also add that last year, as I kept sensing the Lord nudging me to wrap up my homeschooling days, I heard him say, several times, that He had other things for me to do. At the time, I hoped that one of those things might be directing, but I suspected it was probably my Bible study, relationships with neighbors, and service at Light of Christ, including hosting and co-leading the youth group. I was stunned to be offered the head director job, when I wasn't sure I would even get the chance to be an assistant director again. 

As I've been busy with all these things this fall, but especially with directing, I had to ask the Lord if it really was okay with him that I was spending so much time on a musical theater production. Were there other things He wanted me to do, that I was neglecting? His answer was clear: "I am the one who opened the doors for you! Yes, I want you to walk through them." 

So it was a joyful fall for me. So much to learn, and what fun to learn it! I will write a post about our production (probably in January!), but it's been non-stop since it ended. After our last performance and Strike Party, we hosted Thanksgiving 4 days later...then we had the week of multiple school choir concerts, plus auditions for Fiddler on the Roof (B16, B10 and Chicklet are all in it, but I'm not involved, and it's here in Kenosha, not Milwaukee)... then my parents visited us, to attend Ye Olde Christmasse Feaste with the Madrigal Singers, the elite singing group that B16 is part of...before that, I shopped for them, and we decorated for Christmas...and now I am Christmas shopping, menu planning, and grocery shopping right up till Christmas Eve, I'm afraid!

This weekend, I take my Shakespeare class to Milwaukee to see All's Well That Ends Well...we have a youth group Christmas party and caroling...we are rehearsing for a short Christmas pageant that will be on Christmas Eve...and on Tuesday, we have a funeral, our first ever at Light of Christ. A sad loss to cancer, but an indomitable spirit, eager to be with Jesus, whose only earthly concern was for others who do not yet know Him. She left a list of names for Father Rooster and others from our church to follow up with, and she messaged them all that her dying wish was for them to attend our Christmas Eve service, so it will be interesting to see how God uses that!

But I thought I would take twenty minutes and see what I could write here! I spent twice that much time, but I think that may become one of my New Year's disciplines--to try to write short posts, more frequently. We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Happy Birthday, Chicklet13!

I'm late to tell the world that this beautiful girl has become a teenager!

It's hard to believe. She still seems so young, innocent and childlike, while at the same time deepening in a maturity that is beyond her years. Despite her advanced age, she still relates so well to all the younger girls at our church and to her younger brother, and she doesn't seem in a rush to grow up and get too interested in boys, fashion and makeup. 

She enjoys dressing up, though, as she is in this picture--her big sister did her hair and makeup! The occasion was a back-to-school dance that our church youth group sponsored. She was the only middle-schooler there, but since the youth group meets at our house, I'm one of the leaders, and we're short on girls, she gets to be part of it. PK's should get a few perks in life! (Pastor's Kid, for the uninitiated.)

Here's another pic from the dance--with one of her best friends!

Love the exuberance and joy captured here! Chicklet is normally a sweet, level-headed, pretty quiet girl. It's fun to see her burst out at the seams once in a while. 

Her older sister has always been a big personality, and she was SO excited to finally get a little sister when she was 10 years old. She was present at Chicklet's birth, 13 years ago! It's fun to see their relationship changing and getting closer as Chicklet gets older.

Speaking of 10-year-olds, here is Chicklet on the first day of school with Bantam10, her best bud and constant companion. --By circumstance rather than by choice, most of the time, but it's delightful to see the two of them getting along really well, most of the time.

Her first few days at middle school have gone really well. She really, really likes all her teachers--yay!-- and she's found a couple kindred spirits in her classes and at lunch, who sound like sweet, nerdy friends for our girl. Perfect! No looking back longingly at her homeschooling days for either of us--we are both enjoying this new stage. B10 is enjoying being an experienced 5th grader, with the same teacher as last year. He loved her, she loved him, I loved her approach--so all's well there!

One last photo, with B20:

It scares me how old she looks here!

Most wonderful of all, about our Chicklet, is her heart for God. She knows she has lots to learn, but she listens for God's voice, she follows the Holy Spirit's leadings, she leans on God's strength when she is tempted, and she hungers for more of the Lord's presence. You know God is working in a heart like that!

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of 12 years with this sweet daughter. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fifty Things to Love About My 50-Year-Old Man

If I'd been smarter, I'd have seen this day coming and would have started thinking about this post before 10 a.m. on his actual birthday. But since I've been living this summer by the seat of my pants, I will now proceed to dash off 50 things about my one-and-only...before I have to leave for my yoga class! (That I cannot miss even though it's his birthday because it's been too long since my 50-year-old body has been there and I FEEL IT. Such a typical scenario. You can only do how much you can do.)

1. I am blessed beyond measure that my husband deeply loves me.

2. And God. I'm sure it's because of his love for God and God's love for him that he can find the grace to hang in there with me-at-my-worst.

3. Which he does, all the time.

4. He also seems to really like me, most of the time.

5. He likes to listen to me talk, of all things.

6. He even mostly remembers things I tell him.

7. He gives me good advice on a regular basis.

8. And loves me even when I don't take it.

9. But mostly we make a good team.

10. Even though we tend to notice the things we don't agree on, we are on the same page on so many things that it's easy to take them for granted.

11. Faith, for example. Years ago, I thought about marrying a guy who had plans for his life; God was welcome to join him. Instead, I married the guy who was committed to following wherever God led.

12. As fellow adventurers in following God, we've had six children.

13. We've followed God's leading to move to Wisconsin and help plant a church.

14. We've lived by faith on many decisions, large and small.

15. Including buying the house we live in presently, which made no sense except through the lens of faith.

16. He's been the rock when my faith wavered.

17. He's the stable one when I'm tired, weak and emotional.

18. He lets us reverse roles sometimes too.

19. He is incredibly patient.

20. He is an amazing pastor.

21. To our kids as well as to those in our small congregation.

22. He is gifted in wisdom and knowledge.

23. He is gifted in prayer.

24. He is gifted in healing.

25. He is a great speaker and storyteller.

26. Even if I have to bite my tongue sometimes to keep from correcting the inaccurate details!

27. He has a compassionate heart.

28. He oozes wisdom and compassion when he counsels others.

29. People trust this guy, and they are right to do so.

30. He is an excellent leader.

31. He always knows how to speak diplomatically in tense situations.

32. In those situations, I am always amazed at his vocabulary and word choice, which I would never in a million years be able to come up with.

33. He's always reading something interesting.

34. He always sends me interesting articles.

35. He knows what I'd be interested in.

36. And he shares things that he's interested in, just to keep me up-to-date with his latest mental projects.

37. He likes having people over, informally, and together we've developed a hospitality that God uses.

38. Somehow it feeds us instead of draining us, which I'm sure is the Lord's doing, but I have to credit my husband with launching us down that path.

39. He also led us down the Anglican path, which was way outside my comfort zone, but which I love now!

40. I love that he's an ordained Anglican priest.

41. He has such a joyful and honest way of leading a service.

42. I love that our boys all have gone through a phase where they thought they would like to become a priest too, someday. (B10 is still in it. He also would like to be bald, just like his daddy.)

43. I think he looks incredibly handsome in all his vestments.

44. And in jeans and button-down shirts, which always remind me of the college boy he was when we met.

45. That college boy used to sing to me, snatches from musicals, especially "Pretty Women."

46. I still love hearing his tenor voice.

47. I love that our kids inherited his singing abilities.

48. Did I mention that he's much, much smarter than I am?

49. And humble, too?

50. Best of all, he's loved me for 29 years!

Happy 50th, Honey! You are such a blessing to me, our family and our church, for all the reasons I've listed and here and so many more!!! May God bless you as you bless so many others!

Monday, July 27, 2015

July Update

Poor, neglected blog.

Where do I begin to try to catch it up?

I think we'll go with bullet points! (A vain attempt, probably, at brevity.)

--Big news:  My father-in-law bought a house near us!! He hasn't put his old house--a townhome in IL--on the market yet, but he closed on the new house and he's been moving in stages. I've made several trips there to help him pack--but it's been hard to get much time there when you have to factor in 3 hours of roundtrip travel time. (This is why we needed him closer!!) Movers moved his heaviest furniture and books already, but we need to get his remaining belongings packed up and ready for a final rental truck--hopefully later this week!

--It's been especially hard because our schedule has been more full than it usually is in the summer. I started a ladies' Bible study on Friday mornings, which has been good! We've had great discussions about really tough questions, and I was especially encouraged by a woman who randomly asked if she could join us, although she knew none of us and had just met the woman who told her about it. She and her husband came to church the next Sunday, and already signed up for our upcoming new member's class! It seemed to confirm that it really was the Lord who put it into my heart to have the Bible study, even though not everyone I hoped would come has been able to attend, and even though I hesitated to make a regular commitment to it, especially in the summer.

--God also nudged me to start a Thursday Bible study for the kids in our church ages 10-12 (Chicklet and B10's age group). We've had a blast doing "sword drills" (a race to locate verses in our Bibles) and studying passages about prayer, encouraging the kids that their prayers make a difference and wrestling with the question of why we should pray if God already knows what He's going to do! Afterwards, moms and siblings join us and we've visited a museum, ridden the trolley and eaten at "Trolley Dogs," and been to the beach. Again, although it's been a commitment, I've felt God smiling on us all!
At the Kenosha Public Museum

Swimming in Lake Michigan!

--I also committed to a week as a camp mom at a theater camp for 11th-12th graders. B16 attended as a camper and was socially and spiritually encouraged in many ways. Last year, for this same week, he was not in a good place. Through a testimony that was shared, God opened his eyes to recognize how he was sending "leave me alone" signals to others, which contributed to his feelings of loneliness and depression. He was able to turn things around for the rest of the week last year, and it was a significant turning point for him. This year, he had such a different experience. He was able to be outgoing and social, having fun and working hard on his dances and songs, including a solo, a duet and a scene as Henry from the musical Next to Normal. He also auditioned for the talent show, which he refused to do last year, and he ended up getting awarded FIRST PLACE for his original jazz improvisation on the piano!

Photo credit: my friend Lori

--I was glad the camp was as much fun as it was--(I really had a blast, although the last time I was that sleep-deprived was when I had a newborn, and I've never taken more naps in random public places)--because I had to miss tech week with my Shakespeare friends during the week of camp. Camp was the reason I couldn't audition for the show as I'd hoped to...and the reason I ended up as assistant director of Macbeth instead! Then I got the chance to understudy and perform twice in a very cool role:  Banquo, who in our version is a woman-warrior, Macbeth's best soldier friend. Macbeth is threatened by Banquo because of the prophecy that her children will be kings, instead of Macbeth's, so he has her waylaid and murdered. Not only did I have to learn her lines and blocking, I had to learn two stage battles, fighting with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other! One is the opening battle between two armies, and the other is Banquo fighting off the hired murderers--ending with Banquo getting her throat slit. (But not before she gets out all her final lines, "O treachery! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly! Thou mayst revenge! O slave!" That was fun to yell--with a rubber dagger poised above my throat.)

--I was only going to play the role for our two daytime outdoor shows, with no costumes or makeup. But then our regular Banquo got sick, and I ended up going on 3 times in one weekend at the theater--with full makeup (including splashes of stage blood) and in costume, which included a tiny black leather vest I found in the kids' dress-up bin. With a rust-colored tank top underneath, black skinny jeans, combat boots, and my hair in a Katniss braid, how could I not get into character?? And did I mention that Banquo appears two more times after her death, as a ghost that only Macbeth can see? What a great role! And the rich language has just been washing over me all summer...even other people's lines...such a delight!

--Somewhere in the earlier part of the summer I managed to also finally paint my kitchen/dining area. I had to wait to have someone else make repairs to the ceiling, but once that was done, I had no excuse not to settle on a color and begin. I taught myself how to cut in and frame, which was a skill worth learning, and I'm so pleased with the result! Next I really want to strip wallpaper and paint the foyer and staircase. We've been picking away at it, so it can't wait too long.

--The week before camp, we had 5 golden days with my Professor Brother and his family, who drove from southern Kansas to see us in our new house! We had fun "doing downtown"--the trolley, Mike's Chicken and Donuts, Mike Bjorn's, Simmons Library, the beach, Wine Knot, the Kemper Center, the Anderson Arts Center, the Southport Beach House and other stops! (Some of these locations were chosen for senior pictures for my oldest niece!) My 3 nieces get along so well with my younger three kids; it was wonderful to give them that time. The four of us adults thoroughly enjoyed our time together too. Looking forward to seeing them again in August, along with my parents, my Pilot Brother, and his family!

Photo credit:  Professor Brother

Chicklet12 with her doppelganger, Niece13!

Such a strong family resemblance!

And check out these two! They both got the same deep-set eyes that my dad and grandma passed on to me.
--How could I forget? We also attended the Improvapalooza, which was an all-day improv competition between 9 teams of improv'ers from IL and WI. This was B16's third year doing improv, and last year his team finished in the lower third. So what a shock it was when they made it into the final round and WON the whole competition! They had a new coach this year, a dad with a passion for improv and for these kids, and he did an incredible job coaching them not just to be funny, but to work as a team, and to establish the foundation (called CROW--character, relationship, objective, where). Their team was called "Agents of CROW."
The Agents of CROW accept their trophy, the coveted lamp! Their coach is one whose face is mostly hidden, to the right of B16
--We are super-thrilled that this same dad and his family have joined Light of Christ and he immediately felt called to offer to lead our youth group! Unbeknownst to him, several of us had been praying for a youth group leader...and praying specifically that this dad might be interested...but we weren't going to press him too soon. It was such a confirmation when he immediately expressed interest. He's already stimulated new growth and excitement in our teens!

And...I'll quit. That was two months' worth of news! I sure hope another two months doesn't fly by the way those did.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

School Year's End

Six days till summer vacation begins!

Every morning, B10 informs me how many days till summer vacation. He includes the weekends, so his count is different from B16's, who counts only the remaining school days. 

Chicklet isn't as excited, because for math, she'll be plugging away for quite a few more weeks. It was her choice not to push harder; but she wisely decided to focus on a manageable daily amount rather than overwhelm herself with too much information at once. (For my homeschooling friends, we're using a self-paced online program called ALEKS which has been excellent.) I'm happy that she'll be keeping her math-brain active this summer. (But I do wish she could find her grammar and map-reading workbooks that we still need to finish!)

But it's been a good school year.

You may recall that B10 is finishing up fourth grade in public school. Previously, he was homeschooled, but when we moved, we decided to try him at the elementary school in our new neighborhood, since we had heard it praised so highly. I wasn't sure I had the energy to keep him busy enough at home; he has so much energy, I had a feeling he might be more engaged in a school setting. (Incidentally, it hit me just a few weeks ago that, although all of our kids are outgoing, B10 is our only other true extrovert besides Blondechick.)

And he's had a great year. He's getting good grades; he's well-liked by his teacher and his classmates; he's motivated to learn, to behave and to treat others well. There really hasn't been a single negative thing about his experience. We are so thankful! So he'll return in the fall for fifth grade, which will be his last year there. He sometimes speaks longingly of being homeschooled, but the main draw is being able to sleep in, I'm pretty certain. He does have a little stack of workbooks that he likes to do on non-attendance days, so he can feel homeschooled again. One time he told me he wished he could go to school every other day, and be homeschooled on the other days.

Chicklet12 and I have had a sweet sixth-grade year together. One of my goals was to get her reading longer books for longer periods of time, and we definitely achieved that. Yay!! I also wanted to get her "caught up" to where she should be in math, and when she's finished with ALEKS, she will be there. Another goal was to invest time in our relationship--with teenagerhood looming in September! So we went on the cruise together. We also went out to breakfast more than a few times; we've shopped together, cooked together, prayed together, and learned together. But it wasn't all one-on-one time; we also had our classical co-op once a week, plus theater classes and rehearsals, and homeschooled friends, church friends and theater friends to fit into her social calendar!

It's been bittersweet, since we knew that it was probably going to be her last year being homeschooled. And that's the plan for 7th grade--to go to the public middle school. By all accounts, it's not a great school, but it could be worse. So this year she went there for a few months for one period, for choir, which was long enough for her to make a few friends and imagine herself going there. I wish there was a better option, but I also trust that God is in it and He'll provide for her. I can always pull her out and homeschool her if I have to! 

But God is doing something in my heart; it feels like He is gently closing the door on homeschooling, at least for a season, because He wants to direct my attention to other things. It seems crazy to send our lovely daughter to a rough school full of junior high boys--of all things!--and it seems many of the girls are just as bad. But we know other lovely girls who've done fine there, and Chicklet has an inner strength and self-possession that will serve her well and probably be strengthened in that setting.  

Meanwhile, God is opening doors in my relationships with women who want prayer, who want to be discipled, and with people who want to know more about God. Many are neighbors or people we've only met since we moved, and we've never experienced this kind of openness and opportunity before. It continues to confirm to us that our move last summer was something God was orchestrating!

Finally, B16 is finishing his sophomore year at the local high school--also a place I wasn't eager to send our kids, but in B16 it has served to strengthen him in many ways. Ironically, he gets positive reinforcement from his peers for things like being polite, dressing in a classy way (like wearing Dad's wing-tips to school with jeans), appearing to have his act together, and having good relationships with his siblings. (All examples straight from the lips of his friends!) He's had amazing opportunities with Chorale, Madrigals, Jazz Choir, theater and Solo and Ensemble. He's finding more satisfaction with a job well-done academically too. He's also been selected to be on "Link Crew" next year, which pairs mature upperclassmen with groups of freshman students, an honor and a neat responsibility. Despite all the positives, he struggles with a certain level of depression, but he's getting better at making proactive choices that help lift him up (like not procrastinating on the big project), and I am as proud of that as I am of his other accomplishments.

And that's a wrap--for this blog post, at least. B16 and B10 still have four more days of school to get through before we can say the same about this school year. Or six. Depending how you count!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

May Madness



What, gone already?

May was super-busy but brim-full of wonderful events and activities.

For three days, Father R and I attended a healing conference where we taught together on Listening Prayer and Forgiveness. We also ministered in prayer to many individuals, and these prayer times were powerful! God really showed up to do the work. It was a joy and privilege to partner with Him. We were so thankful that nearly a dozen from our church were able to attend.

We also spent a lot of time in prayer as a church in May. Every night, for the week between Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday, we met to intercede for our church and its call to minister in this community. We were joined one night by a Hispanic prayer warrior from another church, another night by the pastor of a black church that we are forming a relationship with, and another night 4 Guatemalans who were passing through town prayed with us. Just as the disciples waited in the Upper Room for the Holy Spirit to come, we lingered in our living room each night listening for the Lord's direction and praying for his will to be done in Kenosha and our surrounding communities. These were powerful times! We had a blessed service on Pentecost, and one family who has been attending regularly decided that day to become members. We are so thankful to God for what He is doing at Light of Christ!

B20's graduation from the Living Light School of Worship marked the end of a rich season for him. It's been a year of intensive Bible study and discipleship, as well as music theory, ear training, songwriting and other classes. It ended up being one of the most challenging, but rewarding, years of his life! What's next? For the summer, he'll be working at Starbucks (he started there a few months ago) and at another retail store. He will probably start taking college classes in the fall, but he is praying for God's direction and clear guidance as he considers his future.

In theater, after Jungle Book closed, the kids had their final Showcase for their classes. B10 sang with his voice class, Chicklet12 danced with her Project Dance Jr class, and B16 performed with his improv team. The improv team will continue to practice and perform throughout June, in preparation for the Improvapalooza, a big competition among all 11 Spotlight improv teams, which B16 is really looking forward to!

We also had Showcase for the Shakespeare class that I taught for Spotlight in Lake County. I was so proud of my students! They performed a scene from Much Ado About Nothing, with 16 kids stepping in and out to play the various roles. I am already revising and strengthening my lesson plans for the next time I teach this class, which will be in Milwaukee in the fall.

In other theater news, I was invited to be assistant director for a summer Shakespeare program at the Rhode Theater here in Kenosha. The lead director condensed two plays into abridged, one-act versions, and I will be working on the one-act of Macbeth. We held two nights of auditions this week and just published the cast list this morning. We have an excellent cast, and I'm excited to work with an experienced Shakespearean director and get to know a new group of adult and teenage actors! 

May was also filled with B10's soccer practices and games, and now baseball season has begun as well. Chicklet's homeschool PE class at Carthage College just ended, and our classical co-op ended at the end of April. B16's Chorale held their spring concert; he had one solo and he performed with the Madrigal Singers as well. He got 1's (top marks) on four out of five of his State Solo and Ensemble entries, including 1's on both his Classical and Musical Theater solos. Another big accomplishment for B16, back in April, was getting his driver's license!

Farewell, May! Maybe next time you can stay a little longer!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A New Sport

Baseball season has begun. And it's a new sport to us!

B10 is really the only natural athlete in our family. All our kids have played soccer at some point and were pretty competitive, but B10 seems to be good at whatever he tries. And last summer he tried baseball, informally, at a picnic with a group of dads, who all urged me to get him into baseball.

So this year, we signed up. He couldn't make the tryouts for Little League because he was busy being a Monkey in Jungle Book, but the Boys and Girls Club has a league, and it's less competitive. Which is a good thing, since he has so little knowledge of the game.

A couple practices were rained out and we had a conflict for another one, so he only made one practice before the first game of the season. Our normally supremely confident son admitted he didn't know what he was doing yet and didn't feel ready for a game, but the coach assured me that he had a broad range of abilities on the team and B10 would be fine.

His inept parents could not find the field where the first game was played, so he arrived last--and they had run out of hats and jerseys. Mom didn't find out that pants weren't included with the uniform until a few hours before the game, but B10 assured her that sweatpants would be fine. So here he is at his first game--in sweatpants and somebody's jersey from last year (over the green t-shirt he arrived in).

I have to laugh. He's just so obviously not our firstborn.

Since we were late to the game, he only got up to bat one time. First he swung at one that hit the dirt. Then he watched another one do the same. And on the third pitch, he hit a line drive to the first baseman and was thrown out--but got an RBI when his teammate on third crossed the plate!

He didn't see much action out in right field, but he looked alert the whole time and snapped up a couple grounders that got through the infield.

I'm guessing baseball is not going to be his favorite sport, because there is so much sitting and standing around--but he'll be glad to know how to play it.

Now I need to go searching for those white baseball pants that somebody handed down to us! I just know they're in a Rubbermaid bin somewhere....